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Ora Washington

Ora Mae Washington
Born (1898-01-23)January 23, 1898
Died December 21, 1971(1971-12-21) (aged 73)

Ora Mae Washington (January 23, 1898 – December 21, 1971) was an American athlete from the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known as the "Queen of Tennis".[1]


In professional tennis, she won the American Tennis Association's national singles title eight times in nine years between 1929–1937 and 12 straight double championships.[1]

She played basketball first in 1930 with the Germantown Hornets where her 22-1 record earned her the national female title. The Hornets were originally sponsored by a local YMCA, but they separated from the YMCA and became a fully professional team.[2] The following year, Washington led the Hornets to thirty-three consecutive victories. Their opponents included African American women's team, white women's team and occasionally, African American men;'s teams. In one game against the male Quicksteppers in January 1932, they stayed close and then on a last second basket by Evelyn Mann, the Hornets emerged victorious.[2] Later, playing with the Philadelphia Tribunes from 1932–1942, she was the team's center, leading scorer, and coach.[1] Washington played for the Tribunes in a three game event against Bennett College in 1934. The Tribines won all three games, the second of which was described by the Chicago Defender as "the greatest exhibition ever staged in North Carolina".[3] The "Tribune Girls" won 11 straight Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championships. Washington was said to be "the best Colored player in the world."[4]

Unable to compete against the top white tennis player of the time, Helen Wills Moody, because Moody refused to play her,[5] she retired from sports in the mid-1940s. For the remainder of her life, she supported herself as a housekeeper. She died in 1971 in Germantown and was buried in her Virginia hometown.[1]

In the mid-1980s, she was inducted to Temple University's Sports Hall of Fame.[1]

A state historical marker stands at the location of the Colored YWCA she taught and played at, at 6128 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, now home to Settlement Music School.[1][6]

In 2009, Washington was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tennessee.[7]

Further reading

  • Wiggins, David K. (editor) Out of the Shadows: A Biographical History of African American Athletes. University of Arkansas Press, 2006.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Edmonds, Arlene November 10, 2004. The Leader, "State Historic Marker dedicated - Tennis and basketball legend remembered". Accessed May 2, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Jennifer H. Lansbury (1 April 2014). A Spectacular Leap: Black Women Athletes in Twentieth-Century America. University of Arkansas Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-61075-542-9. 
  3. ^ Wiggins, David (2003). The unlevel playing field : a documentary history of the African American experience in sport. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-0252028205. 
  4. ^ "All Hail The Philadelphia Tribune Girls". Accessed May 2, 2008.
  5. ^ Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Image". Accessed 20 May 2008.
  6. ^ Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Search for Historical Markers". Accessed May 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "WBHOF Inductees". WBHOF. Retrieved 2009-08-01.